A Strong but Gentle Lady

Three weeks ago, Ada passed from this earth, thus ending 97 years of a well-lived life that began on July 8, 1909 in Bertha Minn. 00000000000 (Ada as baby -->)

These past four years Ada has lived in her own little world. A world from which you could pull her out for a quiet greeting or a dimpled smile. However, not for long. She was happy in there.

Perhaps she was remembering the years that brought her to this place.

Her Papa moved the family to McCall, Washington when she was five. Her Uncle convinced them there was "gold" growing on the the hills in Eastern Washington. He was a wheat rancher and the yield was filling the coffers.

Unfortunately, Ada's papa made a poor choice, ended up with scabland, and was not able to support them. She would walk with her sisters down the railroad tracks and fill her apron with coal that had fallen from the passing trains so they could heat and cook in the little shack she shared with her parents and five siblings.

Her older brother was quite the fiddle player and she looked forward to Saturday nights when his little dance band would be invited to a local grange hall or school. Ada would dance until she fell asleep in a chair and wake up in the arms of one of the older kids on the way home.

After several years of barely surviving, the family moved to the west side of the Cascade Range that was much more like their Minnesota homeland. That was where she completed high school.

Ada was bright and motivated. "Normal School" and an opportunity to obtain a teaching certificate wooed Ada back to the East side where she completed her education at Cheney. (The school is now Eastern Washington University.)

A lovely young single woman was exactly what was required for a one-room schoolhouse in the small farming community of Prescott. Ada took the job and moved into a tiny teacher's cottage. She didn't expect that first year so many of her students would be close to her age. She handled it with grace.

Prescott was another community that enjoyed the impromptu Saturday night community dances. That is where she met Clarence, a local farm hand, and fell madly in love. Love was not an option in her teaching contract. **She'd signed a commitment on the dotted line to remain single.

However, she and her handsome beau snuck away the day after school was out and drove hours away to John Day, Oregon and wed. No one else knew of the pairing, so she returned to her teaching job that fall. On weekends, she would drive into the Marcus Whitman Hotel in Walla Walla, Washington to meet her Clarence. Living apart and meeting in secret kept their marriage under wraps for two years.

About this time, Clarence accepted an offer to join the growing work crew hired to build the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River. Ada, having something under construction of her own, resigned her job and joined Clarence in the little boom town of Coulee City. Their daughter Dee was born. Two boys would follow.

Ada temporarily put aside her teaching career to stay at home with her kids. They remember the monthly camping trips where the "men" fished in the Sandpoil River. Ada would pack up their old car with household goods and be ready when Clarence got home from work. Away they would rattle until they found a spot to set up camp. She didn't have any camping equipment. She just made do.

Camp started out with a fire and a pot of beans that stewed the entire outing. Beans and biscuits for breakfast. Beans, fresh bread and potatoes for lunch. Beans, fresh trout, and a vegetable packed neatly in one of her boxes for dinner. She would take the kids into the hillside and pick wild strawberries that she served miraculously with whip cream after the other tins were cleaned up. They didn't know how she did it.

She returned to teaching when the kids grew older. After losing her dear Clarence in 1965 she felt there was nothing left for her in Coulee City, so she moved to Wenatchee. She taught school another 10 years there before retiring.

Ada loved to garden. She paid particular attention to her roses, which were gorgeous.

Ada loved to bake. Her grandchildren remembered her comfortable little house smelling like Apple Pie, which had perfect pastry that no other person could duplicate. A special day would end with her holding them close as she walked them to their perfectly laid out bed that smelled of floral sachet. She would always hum a little tune and sing the words, "dum de dum de dum."

Her loved ones all own a hand-made Ada original quilt. She taught her granddaughters to crochet and do needlepoint. Even though she was a perfectionist, the lessons were patient and loving. As adults, they now realize those were personal virtues she was attempting to instill in their young lives.

Ada was serious about her card games. A small table was always set up for a game of 'peck.' Dimes, nickels, or whatever change you had in your pocket would be the stakes. Her daughter Dee still has the winnings from the last game she was able to play with 'mom' those four or so years ago. It sits in a buffet drawer along with a very used deck of cards.

The great grandchildren only know her as a small and fragile woman with soft hands that stroked their heads with a glance of longing.

As we sat in the funeral home several weeks ago to say goodbye to the hubby's step grandmother I watched a little curly haired sprite sneak out of the mourner's room to stand beneath a lovely spray of roses. The little girl stretched up on her tippy toes, first to touch the red bud, then to pull it closer to her nose to take a sniff.

I imagined Ada would be smiling.


Susan in va said…
Pamela, I hope you are keeping all of these wonderful pieces of family history. You should get Karmyn to start a scrapbook with these pictures and your stories! Your grandchildren and great-great grandchildren (etc.) will treasure these stories one day.

P.S. Is Typepad treating you like comment spam, too? I have to type WVs in on all TP sites! Boogers.
Tammy said…
I have to say, this was a wonderful tribute and so very, very well written...I felt, by the time I came to the last few lines, that I had known her.
The photographs are SO wonderful! The one of her family when she is little, and as a young women with the love of her life...you can see that she is so in love in that photograph!

Thank you so much for sharing this story of an extrordinary life. I so love reading stories like this! It was so nice to "meet" this wonderful woman through your writings.

Jenn said…
Pam, you are such a wonderfully talented writer. I love that you share these stories with us all. I hope you're keeping record of them somewhere else for your children to have later.
A beautiful tribute.
rose said…
Pam I Love your stories .I can remember that my first ambition was to be a school teacher. Rose
Kila said…
Thanks for sharing her with us.

Sorry for your loss.
Biker Betty said…
Ada was an extraordinary woman. Pamela, I really enjoyed reading a brief look into her life. You did a great job in telling her story. I think she would be pleased. Thank you for sharing her with us.
Vicki said…
I wish there were more Ada in me. I hope that when I'm gone people remember my Ada traits.

I wonder if my children are better off in a comfortable life. When I read about her walking down the railroad picking up coal for heat, that built character in them. What is building character in our children?
local girl said…
What a very touching post. I'm sure she touched the hearts of everyone she knew.
What a tribute! You capture family history so well. What a gift! I'm sorry for your loss.
BarnGoddess said…
a heartwarming loving tale!

97, wow! that is awesome. Ada sounds like a wonderful woman.

Karmyn R said…
I think you should try and get a job with the UB - convince them they need to have a a weekly (Sunday) Obit column for someone in the area who has died - the Oregonian has someone do a nice write-up on one person every Sunday. I think it would be a job you could do - and worth trying!!!!
Susie said…
What an absolutely beautiful tribute to Ada. I have been to many of those areas of Washington and could visualize them as you wove this story.
Our elderly have such wonderful stories to tell and you have such a gift for putting them into words..
kate said…
Its always hard to lose someone you care for... you can rationalize that they had a full life, but its still a loss for the people they leave behind! My Grandma is 91. She is beginning to fail and I can tell that the end is near... its tough.

Sorry for your loss, but thanks for sharing a bit of her with us!
Matt said…
I like how they wanted the teacher to be young and attractive. Battleaxes need not apply.
Jenny said…
What a beautiful tribute. She sounds like she was a hell of a woman.
James Burnett said…
Pamela, sorry for your loss. Ada sounded like a wonderful person.

My wife was just talking to her mother about her grandmother's old war ration book.

So seeing that page you posted was an interesting bit of history.

In case you don't post before Sunday evening, have a Happy New Year!
Willowtree said…
Another gem, thanks Pam. I saw this this morning as I was checking bloglines, but wanted to leave it until I had time to sit and read it.
Anonymous said…
Just lovely.

Stephanie said…
What a beautifully written tribute to an amazing lady. She had an intriguing life, and it's clear that she's left quite a legacy.
swampwitch said…
This is beautiful and how wonderful for you and your children that you have taken the time to document this. Your last paragraph took my breath.
Have a wonderful 2007.
Fish-2 said…
Thank you. So many wonderful people pass almost unnoticed, but Ada had you to tell her story. Reminds me of my aunt, now 100 and living in a nursing home. I visited her at her home just shortly before she went to the nursing home. She was 99, and told me she was getting far enough along in years she was considering writing her will. She's always had such a sense of humor, and like Ada started as a teacher in a one room school house in rural Nevada about 80 years ago. It wasn't even a town, just a school set up to serve the children of several area ranchers.
Bobbi said…
What a terrific tribute! Loved the pictures, too.

Happy New Year to you and yours!
Heather said…
She sounds like an adventurous yet graceful (and gracious) woman.
Kellie said…
Such a beautiful tribute. I'm so sorry for your family's loss. Your writing surely inspires the rest of us to strive to become people who will one day be written about like this.
DesLily said…
I came by to thank you for visiting me... I never expected such a beautiful story!

thanks again..
SongBird said…
What a lovely tribute. I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
Amanda said…
It amazes me how the aging men and women in our family live as long as they do and somehow maintain their youthful spirit and sweet nature. Ada was a nice lady. And a pleasure to know. Rest in peace, Ada.
Anonymous said…
unusual name. don't think i have heard it before ivy
What a lovely tribute ! She was born in Bertha, MN ..you know that is just down the road a piece from me.
They carried on for two years..unbelievable..right under everyones noses..bravo!
I really enjoyed this post Pamela! Thanks! Connie:)

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